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~ About Faeries ~

What Are Faeries?

An Introduction

    In Western societies nature spirits have been known as fairies or elves. In Greek mythology they were the dryads, nerieds, and nymphs that inhabited nature. In some cases the fairies and elves were Pre-Christian Gods and Goddesses. The people had great respect for them and also the aspects of nature they represented. In Ireland it was seen as bad luck to disturb a fairy tree. This similar theme was also seen in Greek mythology in that trees were seen to be dryads, which were actual conscious beings. This showed an awareness of the life force that pervaded trees and all other living creatures upon the earth.

    These nature spirits have appeared in legend and myth throughout the whole world. Tales from around the world all have similar major themes. Some of these themes include nature spirits having power over the elements. Other themes are that there are nature spirits specific to earth (including specific tree spirits), to air, to fire, and to water. Other themes are that these spirits can be dangerousness and mischievousness, and that there is a different movement of time in their realm.

Power over the Elements

    One major theme is the power of the elements of nature and faeries are seen as having control over these elements. This theme is seen in the tales of the Russian King Frost, and the Germanic Mother Holle.

    King Frost brings a colder climate and a chill with him. This aspect of nature would be of great importance to Russians because of the tremendous impact that the weather has on their lives. The Germanic Mother Holle is also similar for she controls when it snows. Mother Holle is also a pre-Christian Goddess. Her counterpart is Eastre, the bringer of Spring and rebirth to the land. She still survives in the name of the current spring holiday called Easter. This holiday is also a celebration of re-birth, being Christ's resurrection. Many older traditions have been incorporated into the newer Christian ones. Painting Easter eggs was also related to the Goddess Eastre because the egg symbolized new life and regeneration like spring does.

Water

    There are many beings in the realm of faerie that are associated with water. Some of these nature spirits are mermaids, the Rhine maidens, and the Greek nymphs.
 

Earth

    Faeries have an association with the earth and nature. They are often described as living underground and within the earth in many tales all over the world. The Germanic tale of Rubezahl describes this kind of nature spirit known as a gnome.

Trees

    In ancient Germany and Greece to kill a tree was to kill the spirit that lived within it. In the Jataka tales, which are tales of former incarnations of Buddha, the Buddha was the spirit of a tree in a former life. Trees were seen as sacred and thought to have had spirits. This was also seen in Japan. The tale of the Willow Wife or Aoyagi, is an example of this. She is really the spirit of a Willow tree. Her parents are also the spirits of the two Willow trees nearby her. When these beautiful trees are thoughtlessly cut down Aoyagi and her parents die.

Danger and Mischievousness

    There are also themes of mischievous to dangerous faerie beings that people need to be aware of. This may be explained by the faeries' close association with nature and the elements. Nature nurtures humankind and yet can be vicious, as is seen in storms, earthquakes, draughts, and other natural disasters. So stories of faeries like nature, vary between the extremes of being both helpful and dangerous to human beings.

Time
 

    A different movement of time is seen in many of the tales of faery land. This may also have something to do with nature and how the earth is much older than individual people. It takes ages for a mountain to wear away, so time moves differently for the elements and nature itself.
 
 

    The stories I have gathered are only a partial list of what I have become familiarized with. If you know of any other tales involving the spirits of trees, rivers, mountains, and nature in general e-mail me at treespirit@sbcglobal.net

    I will appreciate any stories you have to add on nature spirits. I always enjoy learning about new myths and legends. If you can refer me to books or other references for these stories. I also will be continuing to expand the page over time.

 

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